Jazmine Harnishfeger-Brand

Dear Ensemble,

We had a another wonderful night together learning new music and new choreography.  I truly want you to know how much it means to us that you’re willing to give 100% of your focus and energy to your rehearsal.  Those are the trademarks of professional musicians (and wonderful human beings!) 🙂  Please see below for your action items for this week.

Key ideas and Concepts addressed this week:

  1. Every singer – every piece – every week.  We saw what happens when you don’t practice every piece every week.  We slid backwards on some of the sections of Earthsongs.  You have a few pieces to learn right now, yes, but it’s important that you spend time with each of them each week.  There will be more music in the weeks to come, and part of growing as a musician is constantly staying engaged with numerous pieces simultaneously.  So – every singer needs to practice every piece, every week.  (Because we want to go far, and to go far, we have to go…)
  2. If you want to go far – go together.  In Ensemble, we want to go far, which means we need to go together.  We spent valuable time this past week teaching sections that could have been learned at home.  It wasn’t a bad use of time, and everyone was learning while we learned the Alto’s part, but we can only go as fast as the slowest member of our team.  As such, make sure you’re taking your valuable time at home to learn your part (correctly!) so that we don’t have to spend time in rehearsal learning it.  We will get much farther, much faster this way.  Plus, then we get to spend more time doing the fun stuff – interpreting the music!
  3. Divide and conquer: Two week ago Elena taught you how to isolate motives, work on them seperately and put them together in phrases.  Use this technique when learning when learning any pieces, but especially those that have difficult intervals. Do you remember what three parts of your body are creating muscle memory when you do this?  This is an excellent (and highly productive) way to learn (and practice) your music, and a skill that every professional musician uses as well!
  4. Vowels and Tone: We lost some of this in Earthsongs this week.  It can be difficult to switch between singing with a bright, forward tone like in Kusimama, to singing with a more rounded, taller, choral sound as in Earthsongs.  However, you must get into the habit of not only switching moods, energy, feeling, and music, but also changing your sound to match the music that your singing.  While you practice this week, make sure you are using tall vowels for words such as “brightness” (with a tall “ah”), “poetry” (with a pure “oh”), “bliss” (with more of an “eh” vowel instead of a spread “ee”) etc.  It makes a huge difference in the beauty of your tone and your blend when your vowels are pure and aligned.  Let’s make sure we have that pure, rich, mature sound for Earthsongs next week!   

Action Items and expectations for next Rehearsal, January 25th:


  • Practice your part for The Wind.  Learn up to m.61 or to the end (see below for more information on details and notes from rehearsal)
  • Continue learn your parts for all three movements of Earth Songs
  • Review your part for Kusimama and learn the choreography.  Practice in front of a mirror!
  • Review and practice Sing Legato #6 – including dancing!



The Wind, Rich Campbell

  • Excellent sight reading on Wednesday!  I was very proud of you for the work you did.  A special shout to the Soprano’s who really went for those high notes! Way to go!
  • Start learning your parts at least through m.61 (if not the whole song!)   By “learn your parts” we expect that by next week you should be able to be given a starting pitch and tempo and sing your part on correct pitches, rhythms, and words with good tone and technique, at least through m. 61.  
  • Remember to constantly check your pitches to make sure you are singing the right ones.  The notes aren’t hard, but not all motives are predictable, so it’s important that you continually check that you’re on track.
  • There are two distinctly different sections – the verses and the chorus.  The chorus is more syncopated and slightly faster.  Make sure the differences come through in your singing, and that you use your breath/diaphragm (not your throat) to make those accents come through.
  • Altos – your part is quite low in the piece (unlike Earthsongs which is quite high).  Make sure to warm up well, including lower range extensions such as “yah” on a sol-fa-me-re-do pattern, at a moderately slow pace, descending in half steps.  Don’t press in your bottom range, rather let it sit comfortably in your chest.
  • Sopranos – when practicing the third verse (m.65) make sure to warm up prior to practicing.  Those F#’s and G’s are higher than you’re used to singing.  Don’t be afraid of them – practice big full breaths and letting them come from the top and back of your head – don’t push them out from the bottom/from your throat.  Good breath support – not muscle tension – will ensure your success in those spots.
  • As we discussed, the lyrics are a poem by English author and poet Robert Louis Stevenson.  Here is this introduction to the book of poems (“A Child’s Garden of Verses”) that “The Wind” is from:

As from the house your mother sees
You playing round the garden trees,
So you may see, if you will look
Through the windows of this book,
Another child, far, far ways,
And in another garden, play.
But do not think you can at all,
By knocking on the window, call
That child to hear you. He intent
Is all on his play-business bent.
He does not hear; he will not look,
Nor yet be lured out of this book.
For, long ago, truth to say,
He has grown up and gone away,
And it is but a child of air
That lingers in the garden there.

Kusimama (Stand Tall), Jim Papoulis

You will be singing this with Intermediate at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • At this point your parts should be 100% learned.  As you do the choreography see if you can also start working on memorizing the music – they go together!
  • Some notes on the choreography:
    • This song is called “Standing Tall” so your movements should show that.
    • Your posture should be tall and proud at all times.
    • Connect what you’re singing (“with love”) with your motions (spreading your hands out in front of you) throughout the song.
    • Don’t look at your feet or your hands (they aren’t going anywhere!) – look out to the people you’re singing to!
    • On the side to side movements (“Watoto” etc.) your body should face the 45 degree angle between ‘front’ and ‘side’.    
  • Remember the keys to your syncopations: shorter sounds on every note that precedes a rest, along with plenty of space on the rests themselves.  This is what gives the piece its lively, grooving feel.
  • Please us this great recording of Cantabile performing this back in 2013 to see what it should look like.  


Earth Songs – The World is Full of Poetry, David Brunner (from last week)

You will be singing this with Vocalise at the All Choir Concert this Spring.

  • Keep learning your parts for this movement, making sure that you are singing exactly the right notes in places such as m.35 and m.57 (vs. singing more or less the right notes).
    • The beginning to m.41 should be forever learned and solid, and Elena should never have to teach you those notes again! 😉
  • Pay close attention to where it splits into three (and even four!) parts, and where the two voice parts are in unison (even when they are written on two lines) and when they are in harmony: mark it in your score.
    • As a reminder the following people are singing Alto 2: Chris, Saman, Emily, Casey Chen, Sophie, and Quincy
  • The word “brightness” appears in a few different rhythmic representations.  Write in your counts above each one so you know exactly where to place the “t” and “s” of each syllable.
  • Additionally, mark in your score when the pickup in your phrase is a quarter note (m.46) or an eighth note (m.9)
  • As we discussed, the ‘alto’ part is quite high in this piece.  Make sure that you’re taking full, relaxed breaths before each phrase to help produce those notes with the most beautiful tone possible.  Don’t force them from the bottom – allow them to come up and out of the top back of your head.
  • Can you remember where the four different sections of this movement are?  Mark them in your score.  And what did we call the last statement of “The world is full of poetry…”?  The coda!
  • You can listen to a great recording of the 1st movement (“The World is Full of Poetry”) by the Spivey Hall Children’s Choir, on their album called Homeland on Spotify.  (The track is titled “The World is Full of Poetry from Earthsongs (David L. Brunner)”.)


Earth Songs – In Safety and Bliss, David Brunner  (from last week)

  • We read through this piece together last week.  Please keep learning your parts this week, and be ready to sing through this next week – use your chunking method!
  • M.84-m.88 pay close attention to this section, as there are slightly different notes each time the words “May all creatures…” come back in.  Make sure you’re singing the correct notes!  
  • Thinking ahead: What do you want your tone color for this movement to sound like?  Is it going to be the same or different than the first movement?  What do you want to communicate to your audience, given the words of this piece, and the tonality that it’s written in?  What are you going to need to do differently with your voice in order to communicate that?  Be thinking about these things as you continue learning this movement this week.


Earth Songs – We Join With the Earth, David Brunner  (from last week)

  • As you’re learning your parts this week, mark in your music where you have stepwise motion, and where you have leaps – especially when the leaps are to notes that aren’t common.  (A ‘common’ leap would be sol – do, or do – mi, etc.  An ‘uncommon’ leap would be in m.108, fa – ti, in “re-fresh”.)  This should help you not accidentally learn wrong notes just because it’s what your voice wants to sing (instead of what’s actually written).  
  • Be methodical and go slowly if you need to.  It’s better to learn accurate pitches the first time around, than it is to learn the incorrect pitches quickly, then have to unlearn them and try and re-learn the right ones.
  • As a reminder, at m.126 the divisi is as follows:
    • Treble Ia – Soprano 1
    • Treble Ib – Soprano 2
    • Treble IIa – Alto 1
    • Treble IIb – Alto 2
  • While you are practicing see if you can imagine where in the song we are “standing with the Earth” and when we are circling the Earth as an independent planet.  Why did you pick the places that you did?  What about them is different that other sections?  How will you communicate those distinctions in your singing?  

Some more information on Earthsongs

Here are the program notes from the last time Cantabile sang Earthsongs:
“Conductor, clinician, and composer David Brunner brings a trio of writings together in a group of three pieces, intended to be performed without pause. Says Brunner, the texts speak of the wonders of nature and of the importance of protecting the animals, caring for the plants, and nurturing one another. The World is Full of Poetry is a text by the 19th century geologist James Gates Percival. In Safety and Bliss is a Buddhist writing from the Sutta Nipata. We join with the Earth is from the United Nations Environmental Sabbath Program. Brunner weaves together these texts in distinct melodies that not only celebrate the Earth but serve as a reminder that the environment too must be cared for.”

Review: Breathing meditation, standing position and a Yoga flow

Continue practicing breathing as follows (5 min a day.) It’s been wonderful to see how many of you list yoga on your practice logs each week! This technique will not only relax and center you but will also greatly improve your ability to sing long sustained phrases.

Mind and body are one continuum, reconnected through breath

  1. Sitting on the floor cross legged, close your eyes and lengthen your spine: crown reaching up/tailbone reaching into the ground, sternum lifted, chest expanded.)
  2. Notice your natural breath for several rounds, while relaxing your abdomen and facial muscles. Notice gentle expansion of the ribs and belly on the inhale.
  3. Empty the lungs completely by pulling the navel close to the spine but keeping the chest up. Inhale slowly and mindfully, filling up with air from bottom to mid- to upper lungs. Exhale slowly pulling the navel in. This is the extended breath.
  4. Continue with extended breath for a few more rounds. Feel your body expanding with shimmering luminous light and contracting into the belly. Notice your body relaxing and feeling lighter.

Bonus Points: See if you can find a connection between Robert Louis Stevenson and the Bay Area – write it at the bottom of your practice log when you turn it in this week!

Other announcements and reminders:

  • Musicianship Homework: Make sure you are turning in your musicianship books each week!  Many of you forgot last week (and the week before!).  Please make up your missed work and turn it in to Hannah next week!
  • Practice Log: As a reminder, please record the day you’ve opened the blog, when you’re practicing, for how long, and what you’re practicing in each session.  During practice, focus your attention on details by following blog instructions for each song.  Bring your completed practice log with you to the next rehearsal.  You can now use this Cantabile Practice Log to record your practicing each week.  
  • Carpooling: Please use this spreadsheet to both request and offer carpooling to and/or from weekly rehearsals, events (eg. Potluck) and concerts. The more of our families that use this resource, the more useful it will be to our community. If you can offer a carpool – please add yourself to the list. Thank you!

We’re both looking forward to getting to start interpreting Earthsongs and The Wind more next week, as well as polishing your Kusimama moves!  Stay warm and dry in all this rain, and have a wonderful week of practicing!

Yours in poetry, safety, bliss, and in the Earth,

Elena and Jazmine

January 21, 2017

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